Wave and tidal power need support, say MPs

Artist's impression of proposed Skerries Tidal Stream Array Schemes such as the Skerries Tidal Stream Array off Anglesey give the UK "a global lead"

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The government should increase support for wave and tidal power to preserve the UK's global leadership, say MPs.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee says the UK had in the past lost its early lead on wind power through lack of support, and must not make the same mistake again on marine energy.

Its report recommends increasing funding and improving links between UK and Scottish programmes.

The Carbon Trust recently said marine power could create 10,000 jobs by 2020.

By 2050, it said, the global market could be worth £340bn, with the UK claiming about one-fifth of the business.

And with the UK possessing seven out of the eight large-scale prototypes deployed anywhere in the world, it was well-placed to lead the global race, the MPs said.

Start Quote

The government would be mad to miss this boat”

End Quote Nick Molho WWF-UK

"In the 1980s the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development, and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing," said Tim Yeo MP, the committee's chairman.

"It should be a priority for the government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip."

Electricity demand

The committee's report, The Future of Marine Renewables in the UK, included an examination of tidal stream generators, where devices such as big rotors are turned by the incoming and outgoing tides, but excluded barrage technologies such as the mooted Severn Barrage, which tend to be much more expensive and can cause big ecological problems.

It has been estimated that wave and tidal technologies could supply about one-fifth of the UK's current electricity demand, and many other nations are becoming interested, in particular the Nordic countries, South Korea and China.

But currently they are expensive - about five times the price of onshore wind, for example.

As with other new technologies, the government expects costs to fall dramatically once devices and installation become standardised.

La Rance tidal barrage La Rance barrage, opened in 1966, was until recently the world's biggest tidal power facility

But there is little chance of marine power making a major contribution by 2020.

The government recently reduced its estimate of the 2020 contribution from 1-2 gigawatts (GW) to 200-300 MW, and the committee says that should be looked at again, as several industry experts have said the new target can be met easily.

The size of the UK funding pot for marine renewables, at £20m, should also be re-examined, they say. And deployment of that money should be co-ordinated better with the Scottish government, which has a separate £18m budget.

The level of subsidy companies receive up to 2017 is secure, the MPs say - but longer-term clarity is needed in order to give investors confidence.

David Clarke, chief executive of the Energy Technologies Institute, a government-industry collaboration, said time was of the essence.

"The marine renewables industry must demonstrate its ability to be cost-competitive, compared with other low-carbon technologies, in the next 5-8 years if it is to engage commercial investors," he said.

"If it doesn't, other technologies will be built as alternatives; investors will feel more assurance in them and see more opportunity for return."

With projects such as Marine Current Turbines' tidal generator in Strangford Lough showing the technologies can work with no discernible impact on local ecology, the next step will be to build arrays of several connected devices; but each array would cost around £40-50m, the committee heard, meaning current levels of support could be inadequate.

Another recommendation from the committee is that with many of the best sites in remote locations around northern and western Scotland and in the Orkneys and Shetlands, finance for grid connection needs ramping up.

'Fully committed'

Environment groups who have long bemoaned the slow pace of development on wave and tidal power endorsed the committee's recommendations.

"This report is a great reminder of the massive potential of marine renewables in the UK," said Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK.

"Investment certainty holds the key to reducing the costs of marine renewable and creating jobs; the government would be mad to miss this boat."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the government welcomed the report and was studying its recommendations.

"We are fully committed to spurring on the growth of this industry and have already taken great strides to make this happen," she said.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Nobody want's to miss the boat (no pun intended) and the argument for British Tidal energy is strong. The research is mature and frankly not that complicated. Also the jobs generated would potentially off-set a growing unemployment market which is edging towards 3million.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    It nuclear unfortunetly

    Tidal and wind power both need backup systems to the extent that for each Mw of power from them needs the same again in backup.

    Pumped storage would be a solution, a 60-80' dam at either end of Loch Ness should keep Scotland in power.
    for a while
    And a nice 30' - 40' barrage across the Thames, Humber, Severn, Solent, Wash and Mersey should sort England out too

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    Anyone who has seen the tidal surge on the river exe (south devon) would have no doubt about the power involved and certainly how relatively simple it would be to capture this power opposite the town of exmouth

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    312. slightlyallthetime

    Heat pumps operate like fridges in reverse with heat being taken from the ground and transferred into housing. It requires energy from power companies to operate them just as fridges need mains electricity. If the electricity they use is from renewables then they are a low carbon source of heating.

  • Comment number 316.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    Pete, Great Idea but good luck getting affordable homes with large enough gardens for ground heat.... photovoltaic roof tiles need cleaning... so do solar panels so you need access for a cherry picker for the cleaner (heath & safety) All annoying practical problems that are ignored...

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    Subsidies are just a way of increasing the price by getting the customer to pay twice. Once you have been tricked into paying them they are very hard to get rid of. So any requests for subsidies for wave and tidal power should be treated with extreme suspicion.

    What the industry needs is planning approval being granted within 1 year. This includes the listening to the objections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    302. Entropic man
    Concept must become popular & be publicized, many huge payoffs here. Access to power can make the economics work, access to other resources from space can open a new future, potential >> the 'New World' in the 1500s. Building the first will be hard, but the opportunities are incredible & the tech is very close if not in hand. Would open new era in History - The Reach Outside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    #274..regarding ground source heat pumps,I would have thought that is a very good idea but will be resisted by the power companies as they won't be able to profit from it as we'll be using the heat from the earth itself and not what the power companies sell us.
    #210..yes,wind turbines are inefficient,there are 8 of them near me,noisy at times and rarely all working,huge expense for little gain.

  • Comment number 311.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    I understand the beanstalk concept but don't think we have the technical ability to build one yet. For once I do take the Pentagon seriously. A 1GW solar panel facility linked to a microwave transmitter is a fearsome beast. Security would have to be very very tight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Yes, tidal is the way to go. I'm sick of all these subsides going to windfarm landowners for very dubious results. Just how much energy were we getting out of them during this calm and very cold weather? They're too embarrassed to say. For every inland turbine tower there should be at least one artificial 'tree'. They do work, they scrub out CO2 all day and all night. Now that is useful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    I'm with Pete on this one, (comment 274). It's a disgrace that new houses aren't being built with solar panels etc.. No doubt its to protect the power supply companies interests, and their powerful lobbying machine directed at our MPs and parliament. A parliament which when it comes down to it doesn't govern with our interest to the fore,

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Non-intrusive floating wave 'machines' have been trialled for years yet where are they? From the beginning wind turbines have been hated whilst at the same time failing to produce manufacturers figures. Solar subsidies are being cut, yet the sun never stops shining. Where is the logic in all of this? Stop nuclear gradually and clamp down on the suppliers charging ridiculous prices - quickly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    The people that blocked the Severn barrage and project like them are the main problem here.
    OH we cannot do this or that as it will harm the environment. YES it will have an impact, and so does the life of the people saying we cannot build them. Doing nothing will do a lot more damage in the long run.
    Just get on with them and build them having all our eggs in basket is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    290. Tim0thy
    Lots of new work since 1970s; carbon nanotubes look promising for a cable; ref LiftPort & Elevator: 2010. Easy? Not at all! Possible? Current engineering looks very promising, but not for a decade or more, IMO - and that requires some intense focus and efforts. Competition with other options (w/ less payoff IMO) is a major concern.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.


    To my knowledge deaths from the resulting fallout from nuclear accidents have been vastly over egged. Birth defects from Chernobyl two headed fish mutant creatures cancer spikes with exception of radioactive iodine on the young all provided to be groundless when investgated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    How much pumped storage would we need for when at night and the tide turns slack?

    I don't know, however its a quantative question not a qualitative one. We know how it's done we just need to scale up the implementation, plus as pointed out new storage technologies are in the pipeline.

    Nuclear may be needed in the interim, but long term its not sustainable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    #298 Wilem

    I share your aspiration. A self -sufficient space based extension of our culture could do it, but not yet. It would be like expecting the Mayflower colonists to build the Hoover Dam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    IMHO That's a very wild estimate. Solar water heating panel, water storage, control gear about £2500. Six mwh solar panels with batteries and an inverter say £6000. That's new build, you would need a small capacity gas demand boiler and mains electricity with buy back meter. If taken as part of a new home and part of the mortgage the savings would be about double the repayments


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